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Smart wheelchair moves by sucking on a pacifier

Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - 02:02

A Spanish foundation has invented a wheelchair to enable severely disabled children to explore and interact with their environment, as Liane Wimhurst reports.

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For Spain's most severely disabled children getting around wasn't always an option But Nexe foundation's intelligent wheelchair has given the gift of movement. Anna Raig has a rare genetic condition, leaving her with little muscle strength or cognitive ability. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FATHER OF DISABLED CHILD, ANDREU RAIG, SAYING: "One of the problems she faces is how to interact with her surroundings. The chair can help her do that. The fact that she has to push a button in order to do something, allows her to interact." With many possibilities for how to drive the chair, even those with very limited mobility are given the freedom to move. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) NEXE PHYSIOTHERAPIST AND CREATOR OF MECHANICAL CHAIR, JORDI VENTURA, SAYING: "The way to turn on the chair, as it is today, for a specific child, would be through the button. The button would be like a light switch - I push the button, the light turns on, I press the button and the chair is activated. So in order to turn it on, a simple jack is connected to the back side of the chair, and the chair works when I push. This can be done with the hand, with a finger, with the chin, we could do it with the head, or if we put the piece that's inside in a dummy (pacifier), like we have done before, the child by sucking could move the chair." A team of eight professionals and eight relatives of disabled children developed the design that uses cheap materials, sensors and a computer. It is not copyrighted and advice on how to replicate it is available free online. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) IT ENGINEER AND FATHER OF DISABLED CHILD, FRAN SEGOVIA, SAYING: "In the end for the children this is also a way to play. It's how they learn. Like any other child who wants to have an electric tricycle, a bicycle and go around in the courtyard of the house or in the garden, they just go around because that's how they have fun. This can give these children, who are obviously a lot more limited in their ability to drive a tricycle or a bicycle, the opportunity to be able to experience that feeling. In the future Nexe wants to run workshops for families on how to build the chair. So that even more severely disabled children will be empowered to explore.

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Smart wheelchair moves by sucking on a pacifier

Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - 02:02